Man surrenders lasers to police

A man due to appear in the Nelson District Court over a laser light being pointed at the Nelson Marlborough rescue helicopter handed over two lasers when police arrived at his door, a spokeswoman says.

The helicopter rescue crew used their onboard Forward Looking Infra Red Unit to track a man, after they were targeted while returning to Nelson Airport at around 2am on Boxing Day.

The crew had been taking part in the search for tramper Alistair Levy.

Pilot Tim Douglas-Clifford said he could see the person walking around the balcony of the house near Three Brothers Corner in Hope.

Aiming a laser at aircraft is a criminal offence under civil aviation law because of the danger it presents to pilots.

Police said one of the two lasers handed over had a range of two kilometres.

Mr Douglas-Clifford said onboard intensive care paramedic Jon Leach, who was operating the infra red unit and therefore not wearing night-vision glasses, was most affected by the laser strike.

He contacted the police, then hovered over the property for several minutes until they arrived at the house.

Inspector Iain McKenzie of Nelson described it as "absolutely ludicrous behaviour".

"It's really disappointing. We're using the crew to help rescue people and we don't need that sort of rubbish happening," Mr McKenzie said.

He said the man had been summonsed to appear in the Nelson District Court within seven days in relation to the incident.

The Civil Aviation Authority said recently that laser illumination of aircraft was an offence because it could cause distraction, disorientation and discomfort for pilots resulting in a potentially hazardous situation during critical phases of flight.

The man faces a charge of endangering transport which carried a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

General manager Simon Duncan of Garden City Helicopters, which owns the helicopters operated by the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust, said while it was not appropriate for anyone pointing lasers at any aircraft, it was "especially disturbing" for rescue helicopters to be targeted.

"Many are equipped with the technology to identify these people, and we trust the law will then deal with them accordingly."

The Nelson Mail